Blake Shelton Has Helped Country's "Old Farts" More Than They Seem to Know
"Can't they just shut up?"
Courtesy of Warner Brothers Nashville Hey, Old Farts. You're Welcome.
That's the question many country music fans proffer when musicians publicly express opinions that dare venture outside of benign Q&A quicksand and into the murky waters of relevant social issues.
Country consumers from both sides of the political aisle can get riled up in these instances. It's not just the left-wingers griping about Toby Keith's need to fill the asses of terrorists with red, white and blue boots, nor is it only the right-wingers who still are unable to forgive Natalie Maines for Bush-bashing on foreign soil.
Recently, a specific sect of fans felt their tighty-whities twist when a prominent contemporary artist went rogue while discussing his musical offerings in a manner that offended them. Sticks and stones still break bones, but name-calling has evidently gained a great deal of destructive power.
A slight storm of controversy has surrounded television personality -- sorry, I mean, country artist -- Blake Shelton since the December airing of an episode of cable network GAC-TV's Backstory devoted to the "Ol' Red" and "Sure Be Cool If You Did" singer.
During the show, when asked about the changing landscape of country music over its history, Shelton willingly proclaimed, "Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa's music.
"And I don't care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, 'My God, that ain't country!' added Shelton. "Well, that's because you don't buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don't want to buy the music you were buying."
Personally, as a fan of a great deal of the country artists my parents and grandparents enjoyed (many choice, vintage vinyl LPs reside in my collection as a result of my grandmother's passing them down to me), I tend to bristle a tad myself at Shelton's massive blanket of condescension.
But it doesn't take an economics professor or a pedigreed musical historian to see the general truth in Shelton's remarks, abrasive as they were. It wasn't that long ago that Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle were "ruining real country music" with their overly shiny and velvety songs, after all. The debate over what is and isn't "real country" is futile, and serves to narrow the wonderfully large scope that country music should count as an asset.
In predictable fashion, just as allegedly patriotic radio stations did when they used steamrollers to destroy Dixie Chicks albums a decade ago, random groups are popping out of the woodwork to rail against Shelton. Oddly enough, it's happening months after he made those comments and subsequently apologized, and he has even received the support and forgiveness of a number of country legends such as Merle Haggard.
Now, in a desperate attempt to get some unearned shine, this past Friday Bob Everheart of the National Traditional Country Music Association announced the manner in which his organization will, finally, let Shelton have it good. On April 17, a multi-organizational march is scheduled to take place in Nashville to have Shelton's membership in the Grand Ole Opry revoked.